BY JACK PARKINSON
When Joe Mancini started the Working Centre in 1982, he did not want to solve the problem of poverty.
Instead, Mancini figured that the best way to help people was to give them a community. Through community, they could form relationships and bonds that would help with the emotional stress of poverty and work on the material stress at the same time. The Working Centre has been operating continuously since its inception and it is doing exactly what Mancini hoped.
“Our ideal is not to solve poverty or unemployment,” Mancini said in a phone interview. He thinks that poverty is so difficult to face because most wind up facing it alone. Without that crushing sense of isolation, then unemployment is just another challenge in life to overcome.
Currently the centre operates more than 40 different ongoing projects. These include a community kitchen with over 300 meals served each day, a newspaper, a filmmaking studio, a trading station based on barter and a thrift store with more than 170 customers each day. These projects are open to all, and attract residents of Kitchener and Waterloo who are from all walks of life.
Mancini used the thrift shop as an example: naturally there are people with little spare money who shop there because they do not have any other choice. But there are also plenty of folks who like saving money, or who like the clothing on sale.
The Working Centre even reaches out to students or people who want to pursue an education: on Jan. 21 the centre will offer an essay-writing workshop free of charge. This workshop is being offered as preparatory work for the Humanities 101 course that Renison University College is making available this May, and which will run for 12 weeks. Registration is due by the first of February and more information can be found on the Working Centre’s website, www.theworkingcentre.org.
In spite of the centre’s long history, Mancini said that technology has not made a big change to the way he operates it.
“My perspective, who cares about technology?” Mancini said.
“We have public computers. If we didn’t have them, we’d have public typewriters.”
According to Mancini, technology is meant to improve the way the centre operates rather than define it. At the end of the day, the centre has built its success on human emotion and connections – something that technology will not change.